I'm a chef who loves to shop at Costco - but there are 12 things I never buy there

·7 min read
kirkland mixed nuts next to kirkland bagged shredded cheese with an x drawn on top
As a chef, I don't buy certain items from Costco. Lizzy Briskin
  • I love Costco (and have shared my favorite things there), some items aren't worth buying.

  • Mixed roasted nuts, bread crumbs, and big cartons of sour cream often go bad before I can use them. 

  • Marinated frozen salmon, husked corn, and shredded cheese aren't usually worth buying. 

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kirkland mixed nuts at costco
It might be better to buy nonroasted nuts if you need these to last. Lizzy Briskin

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Even if it's the height of local corn season, buying husked corn is a no-go for me.

corn  at costco
Husked corn is convenient, but I don't think it's as flavorful. Lizzy Briskin

Husked corn is more convenient, but taking a few minutes to remove your own silk is guaranteed to be worth the effort for flavor and crunch.

It's impossible to know how long ago this plastic-wrapped corn was undressed. Plus the longer corn hangs around in the buff, the more it dries out and loses its flavor and nutrients. 

Video: Sneaky ways Costco gets you to buy more

 

You're better off buying smaller cans of tomato sauce unless you're cooking for a big crowd.

canned tomato sauce at costco
This 105-ounce can is a great deal, but only if you plan to use it up. Lizzy Briskin

After you've conquered the impressive feat of prying open this nearly 7-pound can of tomato sauce, you're probably going to have a lot of leftovers unless you're feeding a village. 

And that red stuff won't last forever. Sure, you can freeze it, but you'll need multiple containers and a lot of freezer real estate to house those tomatoes.

This is an item you're better off buying in smaller cans since it's inexpensive and much easier to manage. 

 

Buying cereal in bulk doesn't make sense for me because I don't go through it quickly enough.

Honey bunches of oats cereal at costco
These boxes are probably great for bigger families or groups. Lizzy Briskin

Save yourself the disappointment of a stale bowl of cereal and pick up your favorite breakfast from the regular grocery store.

Extra-large boxes of cereal will likely lose crunch. You might also get tired of it before you finish off 3 pounds of the stuff.  

 

Sour cream doesn't freeze well and can go bad quickly, so I skip it unless I have a recipe in mind.

daisy sour cream display at costco
It can be tricky to use up this entire container before it spoils. Lizzy Briskin

Even the most generous burrito stuffers probably don't need three quarts of sour cream in their fridge.

Despite being pasteurized, this dairy product might spoil or go moldy before you can make the most of it — especially if you're double-dipping.

Unfortunately, most dairy products don't freeze well either. Stick to smaller containers of dairy products like sour cream and yogurt for the freshest flavor and lowest food-safety risk. 

 

I try not to buy bulk bread crumbs because they can get stale before I use them up.

panko breadrcumbs at costco
These are definitely convenient, but I prefer to season my own bread crumbs. Lizzy Briskin

Not only does this two-pack of extra-large cans of seasoned panko bread crumbs present an obvious storage issue, but these also aren't not going to stay fresh forever.

Bread crumbs go stale just like regular bread, but you can't freeze them to extend their shelf life. Plus these bread crumbs are seasoned with cheese, which is likely to diminish their shelf life even faster.

Instead, you can choose a smaller container of bread crumbs and add your own seasonings. 

 

I prefer to get my cold cuts at the deli counter or from my local butcher.

extra lean ham cold cuts at costco
You can get cold cuts from the deli counter at Costco, too. Lizzy Briskin

Despite all of the processing, sliced deli meats have a very brief shelf life once they're opened.

You're better off choosing freshly sliced ham from your local butcher or deli counter in an amount that you can consume within a few days. 

 

 

Costco's fresh salmon is a great deal, so I usually skip the frozen varieties.

frozen salmon in the seafood section at costco
Some people enjoy frozen salmon, but I prefer to buy it fresh. Lizzy Briskin

I think you're better off buying fresh salmon at Costco's seafood counter and marinating the fish yourself than buying anything frozen and preseasoned.

Protein, especially delicate fish, shouldn't be marinated indefinitely. Over time, the fish's flaky texture will break down and you'll end up with something much mushier than the soft, buttery texture you're looking for.

Extended periods of freezing can have the same effect, making this frozen and marinated salmon something to avoid. 

 

Shredded-cheese blends aren't ideal for most of my recipes.

kirkland shredded cheese at costco
I prefer to shred my own cheese for recipes. Lizzy Briskin

As a general rule, I say shredded cheese often has less flavor than cheese you grate at home.

There's no telling how long ago this cheese was shaved from its block and blended with three other cheeses. And although you can see both orange and white cheese shreds in the mix, it's impossible to identify each of the four varieties from the others or to know how much of each kind you're working with.

In my opinion, what's the point of melting cheese into your quesadilla if you can't taste the complex and delicious flavors that are carefully developed by cheese makers? 

 

 

I think peeling garlic is a labor of love, so I usually skip the shortcuts.

Garlic at costco
Peeled garlic can definitely save you a lot of hassle, though. Lizzy Briskin

Whether you're at Costco or the neighborhood market, just say no to peeled garlic.

No one likes the tedious task of prying papery skin off a tiny clove of garlic — but it's a labor of love and the only way to get fresh garlic flavor into your food. Prepeeled cloves tend to be dried out, woody, and lacking flavor.

Plus this 3-pound pouch of garlic is only going to degrade in flavor and attract bacteria after it's been opened.

And, for the sake of your family and friends, don't put that kind of pressure on yourself to finish the bag before it goes bad. 

Costco's baked goods are best when they're fresh, so buying in bulk can be risky.

pastry section at costco
If you're going to a party, these could be a great buy. Lizzy Briskin

There's a reason that Parisian bakers are at work by 5 a.m. every day. It's because their precious loaves, croissants, and tartlets are at their best the very day they're baked.

Unless you're feeding a classroom or going to a potluck, there's no need to invest in a container of pastries that you won't be able to finish in a day or two at most.

Chances are, you can also find higher-quality treats at a shop that bakes in smaller batches.

 

It can be tricky to get a good, big container of fruit and consume it in a timely manner.

Costco Strawberries
Unless you know you'll finish it all, you might want to skip bulk packages of fruit. Gemma Acheampong for Insider

Depending on the season, you can keep fruit fresh in the crisper drawer for some time. But if you're buying fruit that's already past its prime, and in big quantities to boot, you're not doing yourself any favors.

Delicate fruits like stone fruit and berries are best bought in smaller quantities and locally, if possible. The further fruit has to travel to reach your store, the more time there is for damage. 

 

 

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